I have a love/hate relationship with the movie Groundhog Day, staring Bill Murray. If you haven’t seen it, the early 1990’s comedy features the story of a self-obsessed career man having an out of body experience where he lives the same day over and over, until he finally breaks the cycle, gets the girl, and moves on. There – I saved you the trip to Blockbuster. Good thing, as they’ve closed their doors.

The part of the movie I love to hate isn’t critical to the plot. The main character, Phil, bumps into a high school acquaintance named Ned Ryerson who’s made a career for himself as a life insurance agent. With a cheesy fur collar, thick-rimmed glasses and a fedora, Ned’s slogan for his business is, “Need insurance? Of course you do.” 

Ned represents everything I hope to help change for the insurance industry – the perception that we’re pushing product regardless of need and that we lack innovation and new ideas.

“Groundhog days”— days that repeat over and over again as if on auto repeat ─don’t get us anywhere in life, or in business. Changing demographics, evolving client values and new regulations mean that our best and most successful tactics will lose effectiveness over time. Like Blockbuster, who closed their remaining storefronts this year, if we’re not learning, growing and evolving how we do business, we’re setting ourselves up for decline.

I’m lucky to work at a great company where insight is central to what we do. We’ve structured ourselves to hold close to what’s working and continually strive to be thought leaders in financial services. This helps us form stronger, lasting relationships founded on mutual success with clients. Here are three ways that are working for my team as we apply a thought leadership lens to the way we do business.

1. Seek first to understand your client

Look to your clients. What do they need? More importantly, what do they want to achieve? In today’s market, many clients are approaching retirement. Faced with increased longevity and record-low interest rates, not to mention the desire to enjoy their wealth and maintain their lifestyle, retirement is an emotionally-charged time. These clients are looking for a new and more meaningful conversation with their advisor.  And so is the generation that follows behind them.

2. Understand yourself – what’s your why?

Look to yourself. Why do you do what you do? Personally, I have huge respect for advisors who help clients plan for their legacy and how they want to be remembered. I want part of my legacy to be respect for an industry that richly deserves it. So, I focus my most valuable resource – time – on projects that relate to helping advisors help me achieve that goal. I’m part of an organization with values that are aligned with mine. Our team creates programs, like the one we partnered with The Covenant Group on, to help advisors connect with clients in new ways and enhance their client experience. Everyone’s why is different. When you know what yours is, it will be much easier to use your passion to create stronger relationships with clients.

3. Bring people and ideas together

I can’t take credit for this idea. Just look at the success of TED Talks, or The Covenant Group’s Pinnacle Conference. Execution is key to having impact; without it, ideas are nothing short of interesting. On my team at Sun Life, we are committed to hosting thought leadership events.  We bring our clients together to take in new ideas about investing, current trends, and practice development. We often bring in speakers who are experts in their field – and we listen as one idea leads to another. Sometimes, we’re headed into one of our events and feel we don’t have everything “fully baked.” Often, those are the best and most productive conversations.

Have you thought about how you create opportunities for clients to come together? Seminars may seem dated, but perhaps it’s the content, and not the act of bringing people together that is old. My advice is to be creative, get to know your clients and try new things. It sounds like common sense, but trust me it’s anything but common.

If you have a chance to see the movie Groundhog Day, say hi to my friend, Ned Ryerson. If you happen to run into an insurance agent pushing product at you, please send him back to the 1990s.